Concentration means total identification. You focus all your attention on something and identify yourself with the object or the subject. Then you receive and grow into its essence, its divine essence.
When you concentrate, you have to choose something that gives you immediate joy. If you have a Master, your Master's picture will give you immediate joy. If you don't have a Master, select something that is very beautiful, divine and pure. A flower has all of these qualities. You can concentrate on a flower or anything else that gives you joy. Look at the flower and, while looking at the flower, feel that you have entered into the flower and become the flower. Then, in a few minutes, try to feel that you have become one with the consciousness of the flower. There will be no thoughts, good or bad, remaining in the mind. When you become one with the flower, the fragrance of the flower and the divine qualities of the flower will enter into you.
In the beginning you need a completely quiet place in which to concentrate. But if you are really advanced, at that time it does not matter. When I meditate and sing during a public function my concentration is very powerful. At that time it does not bother me when people are talking. But the talking may make other people unable to concentrate on my song. If I am concentrating here and somebody next to me is talking, I am totally unaware of him. I am in another world. But if someone starts making a noise, I will tell him to be quiet. It is not for my sake. Only I want to offer something, and if there is noise, then you will not be able to receive my offering.
After concentration comes meditation. In meditation, we enter into something vast. It may be Peace, Light or Bliss. When we get immense Peace, Light or Bliss in boundless measure, then we are meditating. When we meditate, we have to make our mind calm and quiet. This is absolutely necessary. If the mind is thinking of many things, then meditation can never happen.
Next we have to invoke the Presence of God. While invoking the Presence of God, we have to feel His constant inner guidance. Then, Peace, Light, Bliss and Power will descend. We can also get inner guidance from a spiritual Master. A Master can bring the soul of the seeker to the fore. The moment the soul comes forward, the heart immediately gets abundant joy and power. The power and joy of the heart then enter into the mind and the vital.
In terms of aspiration, the distances between concentration and meditation and meditation and contemplation are not the same. Between meditation and contemplation there is a very big gap. Many people do concentration when they have a great vital desire. If they want to become first in school or if they want to become a great football player, they will use tremendous vital power. When people are throwing the shotput or doing the pole vault, tremendous will power or concentration is needed. That is concentration from the vital. The power of concentration we automatically develop when we enter into sports. Athletes may not call it concentration. They only say, "My object is to throw the shotput farther than anybody." But that very idea or goal is concentration. But when it comes to meditation — making the mind calm, quiet, sublime and absolutely peaceful — that is too much for them. They will say that meditation has nothing to do with them. Again, many, many people on earth meditate or pray. Prayer and meditation are very similar. The only difference between prayer and meditation is that prayer goes up and meditation brings down. Both prayer and meditation are linked by a common goal. Prayer and meditation are like a see-saw. You are on one side and the Supreme is on the other side. You are going up and bringing down, but the Supreme remains on the other side.
Contemplation is a different process. During meditation and concentration, there is somebody with whom you are trying to be one. But in contemplation there is an interchange. You are playing two roles. At one moment you are what the Supreme is, on His side of the see-saw; you are on the same level with the Absolute. The next moment you are on the other side of the see-saw; He is acting as your Lord Supreme and you are acting as His supreme lover. Usually, the human mind is such that it says: "I have been worshipping Him all the time, so how can I be on the same level with Him?" But in contemplation this question does not arise. That is how contemplation is different from meditation and concentration.